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420 Day Has Roots in Music and Popular Culture

Seedless 420 Party
Seedless 420 Party
Courtesy Rockhill Entertainment

Over the years the term “420” has gradually become a part of America’s subconscious, supposedly representing the time of day when groups and individuals partake in the act of smoking marijuana. The origins of the “420” term have been up for debate, with various sources claiming credit for popularizing the term. Many enthusiasts believe that “420” is the numeric code that police dispatchers use when describing an infraction involving people smoking marijuana, which is a myth.

The most reliable explanation can be attributed to High Times Magazine journalist Steven Hager, where he revealed what may be the most accurate account of how the term “420” came to be a part of the counter culture movement. The research Hager conducted revealed that the apparent origins of “420”can be traced to San Rafael High School in California. A group of teenagers who called themselves the Waldos first used the term in 1971 to describe a plan to search for an abandoned field of marijuana plants, something that supposedly existed somewhere around San Rafael county. The Waldos designated a statue of Louis Pasteur on the grounds of San Rafael High School as their meeting place with 4:20 p.m. being the time they would gather. At 4:20 p.m. the group would meet at the statue, and then pile into a car where they would smoke copious amounts of marijuana while searching for the field of pot. Their search for the supposed field was futile, and after many attempts they eventually abandon their efforts, but their story helped fuel a counter culture movement that would go far beyond any of the Waldos’ wildest dreams.

After the collapse of San Francisco’s hippie movement in the late 60’s, notorious San Francisco rock band The Grateful Dead, a group that helped spearhead the hippie movement, soon relocated from the Haight-Ashbury district to the hills of Marin County, just blocks away from San Rafael High School. The Waldos had relatively close ties with the band, as one of the Waldos’ fathers tended property owned by The Grateful Dead, and another of the Waldos’ brothers would become a tour manager for a Dead sideband called ‘Too Loose To Truck,' featuring Dead bass player Phil Lesh alongside David Crosby. The “420” phrase was casually passed around the community that surrounded The Grateful Dead’s members and friends, symbolizing an unspoken bond between pot smokers that were in on the code. The band went on to tour America, playing hundreds of shows each year with the term spreading throughout their underground network from city to city. After High Times Magazine caught wind of “420” it helped usher the phrase into popular culture.

April 20, (4/20) has now become the de facto day to celebrate marijuana, and many San Diego establishments have plans to celebrate the unofficial stoner holiday, with the college area eatery Cheba Hut leading the way with an all-day event that features live music, “420” meal deals and special giveaways throughout the day. Visions and El Rey Taco Shop will be sponsoring the 420 Festival at Brick by Brick, featuring musical performances from Transidental Fury and Hendrix Lives. However the hottest and most notable celebration happening will be the Seedless Clothing 420 party at 4th and B in downtown San Diego, featuring a live performance by special guest and marijuana connoisseur, Snoop Dogg.

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  • Venue: 4th and B, 401 B St, Suite 305, San Diego